The need for up-to-date, fit-for-purpose ICT equipment to aid learning never ceases. But how can you achieve this with a limited budget?

Over the last few years, many schools have experienced their largest reduction in funding since the 1980s. Coupled with the additional pressures brought on by the pandemic, school budgets have been squeezed from every angle. Yet the need for up-to-date, fit-for-purpose ICT equipment to aid learning never ceases. But how can you achieve this with a limited budget?

Chesterfield College Group found themselves in this exact situation. The multi-site provider of further education, apprenticeships and professional training has over 10,000 students and apprentices and a complex IT estate. Its ageing desktop computers were no longer fit for purpose, resulting in technicians spending an increasing amount of time trying to fix them. Students and staff were becoming increasingly frustrated at slow load times and sluggish responses, and teaching and learning was being hampered.

Looking at the replacement of more than 1000 PCs, the group’s head of ICT, Matthew Day, explored options including Virtual Desktop Infrastructure and terminal services, but, concluded that they could not deliver the cost-saving and flexibility needed. In the end, they turned to refurbished kit as a solution.

Day shared the same scepticism as many ICT and business leaders when buying refurbished ICT equipment based on a perception that refurbished means inferior products, inadequate guarantees, or a shorter shelf life. However, the feedback they received following a pilot study proved these concerns wrong.

This approach allowed the college group to roll out the replacement of the desktop devices with refurbished kit that was delivered as close to the original manufactured state as possible. The difference from a new device was often unrecognisable. The result was the equipment at the desired specification, at half the cost of a new machine.

Cost-saving is not the only benefit to this alternative take on IT procurement

A ‘circular’ approach means that sustainability is at the heart of the equipment’s entire lifecycle. Not only are you preventing some of the 234,000 tonnes of electricals from being incorrectly disposed of by businesses and other organisations in the UK every year, but you are also reducing the environmental impact of manufacturing and transporting new devices. Plus, your existing, redundant kit can also be given a second life itself. This includes being refurbished for charities, or recycled and disposed of responsibly.

If you would like to benefit from a cleaner and greener IT strategy, here are some tips on how to start:

Take stock of what you’ve got

Many schools have made changes over the last two years to the technology they are using to enable home-learning through the pandemic, and as we’re getting closer back to ‘normality’, now is a great time to conduct an audit of your IT estate. Many devices will likely be no longer required. Ensuring that they are disposed of responsibly can have a huge impact as they can go on to have second lives elsewhere and reduce the need for the new manufacturing.

Think about the end at the beginning

Take time at the start of the procurement process to think about how you can maximise the lifespan of a product through repair, re-use and recycle. This will allow you to be clearer on product specifications as you have the kit’s entire lifecycle and cost in mind.

Look at alternative purchase options

Rather than always buying new, you could look at remanufactured or refurbished products. This way you can lower e-waste, save money and reduce the need for manufacturing. Don’t let incorrect perceptions put you off – these products will be refurbished to an extremely high standard and come with good guarantees. Plus, the typically lower price points of refurbished devices compared to new ones are substantially less, allowing you to stretch your IT budget further.

Alternatively, lease or buy-back options could also be a more sustainable route, meaning you would lease the ICT equipment you need for a period of time. You could also buy the technology outright with a clause in the contract that ensures that the supplier will buy back all or part of the equipment.

Ensure safe and sustainable disposal of unwanted kit

This might include selecting a local charity to be the recipient of your redundant ICT equipment or it could mean using an IT Asset Disposal (ITAD) facility to collect your devices, securely wipe them and refurbish or recycle them as appropriate. But, to get the full benefit, be sure to check a company’s ITAD accreditations and make sure they can provide a full report and traceability of each of your items and guarantee that no waste will go to landfill through the process.

Convenience is key

Don’t settle for something that doesn’t work for you. A good ITAD provider should make it easy for you to book collections via an app or website and certainly shouldn’t charge a premium for collecting old kits. In fact, you should look for a company that will offer rebates for your old ICT equipment as many items will hold a residual value.  To make things even easier, an increasing number of ITAD providers also now offer refurbished products from major manufacturers and the buying experience is no different from buying new meaning that you can handle disposal and replacement of kit in one place; with added peace of mind that you’re making choices that are better for the planet.

If every business was to adopt even one aspect of this circular procurement approach then it would make a significant impact on the world’s sustainability mission.

Written by Tim Westbrook, director at Stone Group.

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